Detecting similarities among distant homologous proteins by comparison of domain flexibilities.
ABSTRACT Aim of this work is to assess the informativeness of protein dynamics in the detection of similarities among distant homologous proteins. To this end, an approach to perform large-scale comparisons of protein domain flexibilities is proposed. CONCOORD is confirmed as a reliable method for fast conformational sampling. The root mean square fluctuation of alpha carbon positions in the essential dynamics subspace is employed as a measure of local flexibility and a synthetic index of similarity is presented. The dynamics of a large collection of protein domains from ASTRAL/SCOP40 is analyzed and the possibility to identify relationships, at both the family and the superfamily levels, on the basis of the dynamical features is discussed. The obtained picture is in agreement with the SCOP classification, and furthermore suggests the presence of a distinguishable familiar trend in the flexibility profiles. The results support the complementarity of the dynamical and the structural information, suggesting that information from dynamics analysis can arise from functional similarities, often partially hidden by a static comparison. On the basis of this first test, flexibility annotation can be expected to help in automatically detecting functional similarities otherwise unrecoverable.